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Alcohol Deaths Rise to Highest Level Since Records Began in England and Wales Through Lockdowns

Alcohol killed more people in England and Wales last year than in any other year since records began, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as many Brits turned to drink to cope with the isolation – and other suffering – caused by lockdowns. MailOnline has the story.

An ONS report published today revealed there were 7,423 fatalities linked to drinking last year, which was a fifth more than in 2019 and the highest number since records began in 2001.

People living in the poorest parts of the countries were four times more likely to have died from alcohol abuse compared to those in the wealthiest areas.

Alcohol-related deaths have been rising for decades. But they rose quickest from March 2020 onwards, after the first national lockdown came into force, and got progressively worse as the year went on.  

Most deaths were related to long-term drinking problems and dependency – with alcoholic liver disease making up 80% of cases. 

But experts told MailOnline that a year of social restrictions likely exacerbated Britain’s drinking problem. Dozens of surveys found people drank more than usual during lockdowns to cope with isolation, boredom and anxiety about the pandemic.

One in 10 of the alcohol-related deaths were from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol misuse and 6% were from accidental alcohol poisoning…

Professor Paul Hunter, an Epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, previously told MailOnline it was possible some of the increase was caused by excessive drinking during lockdown speeding up the deaths. 

“If people with liver disease start drinking again, especially binge drinking, that would certainly be very bad for their liver and could lead to liver failure and subsequent death,” he added. 

He added the spike in liver disease deaths could be down to patients struggling to access healthcare. Waiting lists have soared to record levels as a result of the NHS focusing on Covid patients. 

The number of people dying because of alcohol got worse as lockdowns progressed through 2020.

Compared to 2019, there were just 8% more fatalities by March last year, compared to 30% more between October and December.

But between 2019 and 2020 the rise was 19.6%. 

The spike highlights the “devastating impact” of the pandemic on problem drinking, according to the Portman Group – a regulator for alcohol labelling, packaging and promotions.

The increase in people dying from drink may partly explain last year’s drop in registered suicides – along with delays to coroner inquests – since they would be recorded as unintended injury deaths rather than as suicides.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Tucker Carlson Asks: How Many Americans Have Died After Taking the Vaccine?

We are told a lot about the upsides of Covid vaccines but rarely discuss the risks. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has taken it upon himself to ask how many Americans have died after taking the vaccine.

Here is a transcript of part of the video.

How many Americans have died after taking the Covid vaccines? Not Americans who’ve been killed by the virus, that’s a huge number, but how many Americans have died after getting the vaccines designed to prevent the virus? Do you know the answer to that question? Do you know anything about the downside? We know a lot about the upside of the vaccine. We’ve been completely in favor of vulnerable people taking vaccines. 

But what about the potential risks? You’d think you would know more about that than you do. We talk about vaccines constantly, not just on this show, but in this country. Joe Biden was on TV yesterday talking about vaccines. He wants you to get one. Everyone in authority wants you to get one. In fact, you’ve probably already had your shot, and good for you. If you haven’t had your shot, you’re under enormous pressure to get your shot. You understand that soon you may not be able to fly on commercial airplanes or go to work at the office or send your children to school if you don’t have the shot. Meanwhile, the social pressure is enormous. Friends may have already informed you that you’re not welcome at their parties or weddings if you haven’t been vaccinated. There is a lot of pressure to comply. At some point, you probably will comply. It’s just too difficult not be to vaccinated in this country.   

But before you make the appointment: do you know anything about the potential risks? Probably you don’t know much. We all assume the risks are negligible. Vaccines aren’t dangerous. That’s not a guess, we know that pretty conclusively from the official numbers. Every flu season, we give influenza shots to more than 160 million Americans. Every year, a relatively small number of people seem to die after getting those shots. To be precise, in 2019, that number was 203 people. The year before, it was 119. In 2017, a total of 85 people died from the flu shot. 

Every death is tragic, but big picture, we don’t consider those numbers disqualifying. We keep giving flu shots, and very few people complain about it. So the question is how do those numbers compare to the death rate from the coronavirus vaccines now being distributed across the country? That’s worth knowing. 

We checked today. Here’s the answer, which comes from the same set of Government numbers that we just listed: between late December of 2020, and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the Covid vaccines in the United States… That’s an average of 30 people every day. So, what does that add up to? By the way, that reporting period ended on April 23rd. We don’t have numbers past that, we’re not quite up to date. But we can assume that another 360 people have died in the 12 days since. That is a total of 3,722 deaths. Almost 4,000 people died after getting the Covid vaccines. The actual number is almost certainly much higher than that – perhaps vastly higher.

The data we just cited come from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) which is managed by the CDC and the FDA. VARES has received a lot of criticism over the years, some of it founded. Some critics have argued for a long time that VARES undercounts vaccine injuries. A report submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2010 concluded that “fewer than 1% of vaccine adverse events are reported” by the VARES system. Fewer than 1%. So what is the real number of people who apparently have been killed or injured by the vaccine? Well, we don’t know that number. Nobody does, and we’re not going to speculate about it. But it’s clear that what is happening now, for whatever reason, is not even close to normal. It’s not even close to what we’ve seen in previous years with previous vaccines.

Worth reading – or watching – in full.

Health Scientists “Haven’t Seen Any Hint” That Covid Variants Can Fully Evade Vaccines

Over-50s will be offered a third Covid vaccine dose before winter, in part to tackle new variants. But according to the Head of the Covid Genomics U.K. Consortium (COG-UK), there is currently “no hint” of a variant that can fully evade the effectiveness of vaccines. If anything, future variants could be less infectious. The Express and Star has the story.

Sharon Peacock, Head of COG-UK and Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said it could be the case that coronavirus mutates to become less infectious, though she warned it could take years for it to become like the common cold.

Asked whether a variant will emerge somewhere across the globe that is resistant to current vaccines, Professor Peacock told Times Radio: “That’s what we’d call it, a variant of major concern. We haven’t seen anything like that to date, and the question you’re asking is the million dollar question in many ways, everybody wants to know what’s the likelihood and when is it likely to occur, if at all.

“What we don’t know is if it is likely to occur. We know that as mutations accumulate in the virus, it can actually make it more fit in terms of avoiding our immune system, but the more mutations it accumulates, it could actually lead to a virus that is less infectious, for example.

“So there’s a trade-off for the virus in terms of how many mutations it can tolerate.

“Now, some people have predicted that a virus could emerge that is pretty resistant to vaccines, but we haven’t seen any hint of that at the moment.

“And the idea that this could arise is based on models from previous viruses, not this current one, so at the moment, I remain optimistic that we’re in a good place – that the viruses that are circulating are susceptible to vaccinations.”

Despite the continual fall of Covid cases and deaths, and the success of the vaccine rollout, the Government and media narrative around the virus continues to be fairly pessimistic – largely due to the perceived threat of variants. Imperial College’s Danny Altmann said last month that the Indian Covid variant could “scupper” Britain’s “roadmap” out of lockdown – a statement which a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation criticised as “pessimistic“. Professor Neil Ferguson also believes that life in Britain will “not [be] completely back to normal” by summer because of Covid variants, despite advisers to SAGE saying last week that Pfizer’s vaccine does protect well against the South African variant after people have had both doses.

The Express and Star report is worth reading in full.

More Companies Tell Their Staff to Work From Home Post-Lockdown

An increasing number of companies are telling their staff to work from home at least some of the time, confirming previous reports that, for many, “hybrid working” could become “the norm” post lockdown. HSBC moved 1,200 staff in Britain to permanent working from home contracts last month – many of them willingly – in an effort to cut costs, despite a study finding that working from home is less productive (not to mention the impact on staff socialisation). The latest companies to take this approach are Google and KPMG. The Guardian has the story.

Accounting and consultancy group KPMG has told its 16,000 U.K. staff that they will have to work only an average of two days in the office each week from next month, as the firm revealed its plans for a post-pandemic hybrid working model.

Under the new initiative, which the company has called the “four-day fortnight”, staff will spend the remaining days working either from home or at client sites.

In addition, over the summer, staff will also be given an extra 2.5 hours off each week “to give people time away from work and to re-energise”. 

All staff will be given an extra day off on June 21st, the date the Government plans to end all social distancing restrictions – which many see as marking the end of the pandemic.

The new KPMG working arrangements were unveiled as Google said it expected 20% of its staff to work from home permanently in the future. The search engine group said it anticipated 60% of workers being office-based, 20% working in new office locations and 20% staying at home.

Those proposals are in stark contrast to the approach taken by investment bank Goldman Sachs. On Tuesday, Goldman moved in the opposite direction, telling its U.S. and U.K. bankers to prepare to return to offices next month.

Jon Holt, Chief Executive at KPMG UK, said: “We trust our people. Our new way of working will empower them and enable them to design their own working week. The pandemic has proven it’s not about where you work, but how you work.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Almost all of the U.K.’s 50 biggest employers say that they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time, according to BBC News.

News Round Up

Canada Authorises Use of Pfizer Covid Vaccine for Children

Canada has become the first country to authorise the use of the Pfizer Covid vaccine on children aged 12 to 15. Many other countries are likely to follow suit. BBC News has the story.

[Canada’s] Health Ministry made the decision based on data from phase three clinical trials on children that age. 

“The department determined that this vaccine is safe and effective when used in this younger age group,” an adviser at the Ministry said. Pfizer says its jab works well in the age group.

Canada has already authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine in people over 16. 

The state of Alberta, which has the highest rate of the virus in the country, said it would offer vaccines to those over 12 from Monday.

Canada has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and roughly 20% of those have been in people under the age of 19. 

The country’s vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, caused by delivery delays. About 34% of people in the country have received at least one dose of the vaccine while the figure in the US stands at 44%, according to Our World in Data…

As part of the vaccine’s approval, Pfizer will have to continue providing information to Canada’s Health Ministry on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in those aged 12 to 15. 

In March, Pfizer said initial results from trials of its vaccine in this age group showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.

U.S. regulators are expected to authorise the use of the Pfizer vaccine in the same age group in the coming days, and in the U.K. the NHS is preparing to vaccinate schoolchildren from September, shortly before those aged over 50 will be offered a third Covid vaccine dose.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

“The Toxicity of Some of the Chemicals Found Raises the Question of Whether Face Masks are Safe to be Used on a Daily Basis” – Study

A new peer-reviewed study in the scientific journal Water Research has called for a full investigation into face masks as it raises serious questions about their safety for daily use and their impact on the environment.

The study, “An investigation into the leaching of micro and nano particles and chemical pollutants from disposable face masks – linked to the COVID-19 pandemic“, investigated the impact of disposable plastic facemasks (DPFs) on the environment by submerging masks from seven different manufacturers in water then testing the water for chemicals. The researchers found lead, cadmium, antimony and various plastic and organic substances in the water. They expressed concerns about the contribution disposable face masks are making to the world’s plastic problem.

While the focus of the study was on the impact on the environment, the authors were clear about the implications of their findings for the safety of masks for public health. They write: “The toxicity of some of the chemicals found and the postulated risks of the rest of the present particles and molecules, raises the question of whether DPFs are safe to be used on a daily basis and what consequences are to be expected after their disposal into the environment.”

The problems arise from both the toxicity of the chemicals present and how easily they detach from the mask. The authors call for a full investigation into the risks to the environment and public health.

There is a concerning amount of evidence that suggests that DPFs waste can potentially have a substantial environmental impact by releasing pollutants simply by exposing them to water. DPFs release small physical pollutants such as micro and nano size particles; mainly consistent with plastic fibres and silicate grains, which are well documented to have adverse effects on the environment and public health. In addition to the physical particles, harmful chemicals such as heavy metals (lead, cadmium and antimony), and organic pollutants are also readily released from the DPFs when submerged in water. Many of these toxic pollutants have bio-accumulative properties when released into the environment and this research shows that DPFs could be one of the main sources of these environmental contaminants during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. It is, therefore, imperative that stricter regulations need to be enforced during manufacturing and disposal/recycling of DPFs to minimise the environmental impact of DPFs.

Secondary to environmental concerns, there is a need to understand the impact of such particle leaching on public health, as all DPFs released micro/nano particles and heavy metals to the water during our investigation. One of the main concerns with these particles is that they were easily detached from face masks and leached into the water with no agitation, which suggests that these particles are mechanically unstable and readily available to be detached. Therefore, a full investigation is necessary to determine the quantities and potential impacts of these particles leaching into the environment, and the levels being inhaled by users during normal breathing. This is a significant concern, especially for health care professionals, key workers, and children who are mandated to wear masks for large proportions of the working or school day (6–12 hours).

The full article is behind a paywall but the abstract is publicly available and can be found here.

Looks like the makings of another public health calamity with the potential for some very expensive litigation. If I was in Government, given how weak the evidence is for their effectiveness, I’d be looking at phasing face masks out round about now.

Lockdown Sceptic Party Wins Resounding Victory in Spanish Election

Heartening news today ahead of our own elections tomorrow. The People’s Party (PP) in Madrid led by regional assembly President Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who campaigned under a “Freedom” banner and who is credited with keeping lockdown restrictions to a minimum in the city, won 65 of the 136 seats available in the assembly. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), which is the national governing party, was trounced, receiving just 16.85% of the vote, leaving it with a record low of just 24 seats, down from 37 two years ago. Euronews has more.

The PP’s conservative regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso (PP) had campaigned under the slogan of “Freedom”, championing relaxed COVID-19 measures and criticising the approach of the national government, led by Socialist Pedro Sánchez, to managing the pandemic in Spain.

Ayuso had called the election after the PP’s coalition with the liberal Cuidadanos party collapsed two years into its mandate.

Speaking on Tuesday, she said the results backed her policies of keeping bars, restaurants and other businesses open even at the height of the pandemic to keep the economy moving.

She told voters: voters: “We promise you two more years of freedom of governance, bringing down taxes, protecting public, private and special education. To look after our health care system and to look after all the great things that we have constructed amongst us all.

“We are not going to let you down. We are going to govern with respect and above all else, and I repeat again for the thousandth time we go forward with the flag of freedom leading us. Long live Madrid, Long live Spain.”

Does this mean Laurence Fox is going to do better than expected tomorrow? We can but hope.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Guardian has published its own rather grudging report of last night’s victory for common sense.

A Cartoonist’s View of the Last 18 Months in the Style of the Bayeux Tapestry

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Today we’re publishing a series of cartoons, Bayeux Tapestry-style, by a Lockdown Sceptics reader, telling the story of the global panic caused by the Covid outbreak. He’s a professional cartoonist, but for the sake of his career wishes to go under the name of “Artamer”.

The images change automatically to take you through the story, but you can speed the process up by clicking the right-hand arrow – or go back by clicking the left-hand arrow. To start again at the beginning, refresh the page. (For mobile users, just scroll through the images in the normal way.) Enjoy.

Why is the World’s Most Vaccinated Nation Locking Down Again?

Seychelles, an archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean with a population of about 98,000, is locking down again – even though it has fully vaccinated more than 60% of its adult population with two vaccine doses, more than any other country in the world including Israel.

The country has banned the intermingling of households, closed schools, imposed curfews on bars and cancelled sporting activities for two weeks as infections surge.

The country began vaccinations in January using a donation of Chinese vaccines from the United Arab Emirates. According to Bloomberg, by April 12th, “59% of the doses administered were Sinopharm vaccines and the rest were Covishield, a version of AstraZeneca’s shot made under licence in India.”

The Government put the surge down to people being less careful, particularly over Easter. However, setting aside whether population behaviour is a plausible explanation, this doesn’t explain why the vaccines are not preventing transmission or infection.